By Possible Team I Jun 27, 2022
Graduating from a law school opens up several doors as far as career opportunities are concerned. Some among them are court litigation, law firms, judiciary, in-house counsels, academia, etc. Each of them has its pros and cons in terms of financial security, work-life balance, and the nature of work.
While showcasing the practice of law, Indian media (including film, series, and news) typically focuses only on two major career paths: court litigation, and judiciary. Resultantly, law aspirants are often entirely unaware of other career paths. We decided, therefore, to write something about these career paths. This piece will focus on law firms.
1. What are law firms and how to get a job there?
Legally, law firms are partnerships comprising lawyers (called Partners) that keep on retainership many advocates (called Associates) and employ support staff. In simpler terms, they are an organized group of lawyers and support staff that often recruit students straight out of law school (and subsequently at various levels of seniority).
There are broadly two kinds of law firms: full-service firms, and boutique firms. The latter offers its services only about niche, specific areas of law, while the former provides a comprehensive list of services internally without relying much on external sources. Firms can be focused on litigation, dispute resolution, corporate/ transactional work, or more than one of them. Big law firms typically have multiple offices across the country and engage 100-400 lawyers across offices.
We have already discussed earlier in this post how a student can get engaged by some of these law firms.
2. Life at a law firm
As alluded to earlier, the law firm life is drastically different from the kind of things we see on television, in films, and read in newspapers. Law firm lawyers do not sit outside courts, waiting for clients. They work in big offices in major commercial areas in metro cities.
A. Structure of a Law Firm
Law firms are typically divided into teams. The teams are headed by Partners, in whose supervision Associates work. Associates, too, have a hierarchy of their own - Principal/ Managing Associate, Senior Associate, Associate (in decreasing order of seniority). Each team focuses on a particular area of law (such as dispute resolution, direct tax law, indirect tax law, intellectual property, project finance, “general corporate”, mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, environmental law, dispute resolution, labor law, criminal law, etc.), and teams often collaborate with other teams in the firm on large matters that involve various areas of law.
B. Nature of work
The work at law firms largely involves one or more of advising clients, drafting and negotiating contracts, litigation, briefing senior counsels for litigation, and dispute resolution in courts, arbitration, and mediation. These lawyers are expected to be proficient in contract law, corporate law, civil procedure, drafting, and any other area of law in which the firm/ the relevant team in the firm works. Law firms are involved in all of the big commercial transactions that are taking place in the country. (see, for instance, posts like this, this, and this)
C. Conditions of Work
Hours of work are typically long. Most law firm lawyers work around 60-80 hours a week, if not more. Unless someone is working in dispute resolution or litigation-related matters, the work-life is mostly limited to desk-work: reading, and editing documents on the desk either in hard or soft copy. Since the remuneration in most big firms is quite rewarding (to the tune of 8-20 lakhs per annum, depending on the size and nature of the firm), the expectations at work are commensurately higher. In other words, while the work-life balance may not be optimal, a lot of law firm lawyers believe that the nature of work and the money more than makeup for it.
D. Concluding Remarks
You’ll find that being at the forefront of huge transactions, representing big clients in various industries, and providing them legal solutions for their transactions and problems is extremely satisfying for many lawyers in law firms! Sure, the hours are long, and getting in is not a cakewalk, but the sheer magnitude of the satisfaction that one can derive from such work is immense.
At CLAT Possible, we not only organize webinars or sessions with people working in various fields of law, including law firms, but we also have two working full-time who have worked in law firms. We try to expose our students to as many different viewpoints as possible so that they make an educated decision about a career in law.
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